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Understanding Out-of-State Drunk-Driving Offenses

You may know the laws and punishments of driving under the influence (DUI) in your own state, but this may be different in another state. Because of the congressional highway funds, the legal blood alcohol content limit of 0.08 is the same for most of the country, but each state has different jurisdiction regarding the charges and sanctions. Not only may the laws differ, but states typically subject different sanctions for out-of-state residents than they do for in-state residents in DUI cases.


Drunk-Driving Offenses by States

Each state has an offense which is used to convict a driver under the influence of alcohol, but the names and definitions for these offenses vary by state. Rather than DUI, some states refer to the offense of drunk-driving as driving while intoxicated (DWI), or driving while ability impaired (DWAI). Most offenses are essentially the same, but It’s important to understand the different implications for each state.

Conviction Enhancements for Repeat Offenders

Majority of states use a national conviction system that shares details of convictions across state lines. This mean that if you have previously been convicted of a DUI, then another state will be able to view the conviction if you receive a similar offense in that state, and vice versa. In such cases, many states will reciprocate punishments against violators, and may invoke an enhancement of the conviction. The enhancement policy is intended to subject repeat offenders to harsher convictions similar to ones they would receive had both offenses occurred in the same state.


Out-of-State Convictions Used for Enhancement

If a state is seeking to use an out-of-state conviction as a predicate for enhancement, certain requirements must be met. There must be considerable similarities in the out-of-state offense and the one in which the offender is being charged for. This degree of similarity is guided by case law, and considers similarities in:

  • How each state defines intoxication or impairment
  • The main components of each of the offenses
  • The intent requirement

In many cases, definitions of intoxication, as well as the wording and title of statutes, may differ by state, but if the courts find the meanings to be similar, then they may qualify for enhancement.

If the actual elements of both charges are different, then an enhancement of the conviction may not be possible. Some states also have additional requirements that place limits of the use of out-of-state DUI convictions.

It is important to become familiar with the rules of each state regarding DUI convictions and enhancements. In some cases, adequately comparing the state requirements could lead to a punishment reduction, or prevent a greater punishment.

Suspension of Driver’s Licenses in Out-of-State Convictions

The suspension of a driver’s license following a DUI conviction does not need to adhere to the same requirements needed for a conviction enhancement. Majority of states have adopted the Interstate Driver’s License Compact. Under this pact, if a person is convicted of a DUI in another state, the home state will suspend the license of the offender according to the rules of the state where the conviction was received.

Because of the complexities involved in out-of-state DUI cases, it is advised to seek legal counsel. A skilled DUI attorney such as the DUI lawyer Peoria IL locals trust will help determine the rules of each state, and protect your rights accordingly. Don’t run the risk of experiencing complications or a greater punishment, because they may be avoidable with proper guidance.


smith and weer attorneys at lawThanks to authors at Smith & Weer P.C. for their insight into Criminal law.


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